Memorandum by the Director of the Bureau of German Affairs (Byroade) to the Secretary of State


Subject: British Statement left by Sir Oliver Franks on “German Defense Contribution”.1

1. British paper which was left with you by Sir Oliver Franks seems to summarize the facts of the situation as regards possible German rearmament. We do not disagree with the British view that German reactions to date mean there is very little likelihood of any immediate creation of German armed units. But we do not exclude the possibility that as the situation develops, and if we actively push our discussions, the Germans may agree to participate even before all of their present demands are fully met. We agree with the British conclusion that “it would be tactically a great mistake to appear to be running after the Germans for a contribution or to allow the military discussions in Bonn to take the limelight and to get ahead of the larger questions of establishing the political background and building up the Allied forces”. We should emphasize our agreement with the conclusion that “it is naturally essential to avoid giving the impression that there is any drawing back in the desire of the NATO powers to obtain a German contribution”. If the Germans get the impression (as they already have from statements by Mr. Attlee, General Eisenhower and others) that there is a change of policy on our part, [Page 1021] they will seek a motive for that change. They appear already to be speculating that the motive is not to commit ourselves too deeply before a CFM in which we might possibly reach an agreement at their expense. In these circumstances, they will tend on their side to avoid commiting themselves. Any hint of a change of policy will therefore be very damaging to our objective.

2. We are somewhat concerned by the flavor of paragraph 8 of the British paper and particularly the last sentence of paragraph 9. Both these formulations seem to indicate a tendency to hold off on the matter of German rearmament until the outcome of a possible Four Power Meeting is known.

3. We are bound to consider this statement in the light of Mr. Attlee’s statement in the House of Commons on February 12. The formulation and spirit of the two statements are not altogether consistent. Mr. Attlee made four points:

rearmament of NATO countries must precede that of Germany.
building up of forces in democratic states should precede creation of German forces.
German units must be so integrated as to preclude the emergence of a German military menace.
there must be agreement with the Germans themselves.

4. The distinction between Mr. Attlee’s first and second points is unclear. It has always been agreed, however, that insofar as shortages in equipment may exist, priority goes to NATO countries and Germany comes second. The Brussels decisions did not include a decision that German rearmament must be postponed until some indefinite stage of strength is reached in the armament of NATO countries. With Mr. Attlee’s third and fourth points we find no disagreement.

5. The difference between the British statement and Mr. Attlee’s statement seems to be that the former recognizes certain political facts and draws certain conclusions as to the probable sequence of events from those facts, while Mr. Attlee’s statement, on the other hand, sets up new conditions precedent, which must be achieved before we can turn to German rearmament.

6. We have noted also that Mr. Attlee repeated that the British “have agreed in principle” to German rearmament. We are somewhat disturbed by the use of this phrase, as it implies that the Brussels decision to proceed with German rearmament was one taken in principle only, and not seriously to be implemented as soon as possible.

7. There is one imprecision in the British statement. In paragraph 4 there is reference to “the NATO decision that (the Germans) be limited to brigade groups.” In fact, it was agreed that this limitation is only temporary and the final decision was postponed.

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Recommendations: It is recommended (1) that you express our agreement with the political analysis of the decision in the British paper; (2) that you express our concern over the differences between the British statement and Mr. Attlee’s statement of February 12; (3) that you express our concern about the tendency of the British statement to suggest that nothing should be done before a four-power meeting; and (4) that you impress upon Sir Oliver our continuing sense of urgency, our belief that we must continue energetically to seek ways and means of overcoming German hesitations, and that we must on no account permit Soviet maneuvers for a CFM to delay our plans for building strength.2

  1. Not printed (762A.5/2–1251).
  2. Apparently Secretary Acheson saw Ambassador Franks at 6 p. m. and discussed the British paper along these lines since at the top of the source text is the handwritten notation “6:00 Appointment”; however no record of a conversation between Acheson and Franks on this subject has been found in Department of State files.